Braille Day: we share some inspiring stories about its use by the visually impaired.

The United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim January 4 as World Braille Day, recognizing that the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms relies on an inclusive written promotion.

 

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.3 billion people around the world live with some form of vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed.

 

What is Braille?

 

Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number, and even musical, mathematical and scientific symbols.

 

This writing system is used by people who are blind or visually impaired to read the same books and periodicals as printed ones for visual reading and to ensure the communication of important information to themselves and others. It represents competence, independence and equality.

 

Braille is a means of communication for blind people and may be relevant in the contexts of education, freedom of expression and opinion, access to information and written communication, as well as in the context of social inclusion for blind people.

 

Inspiring stories

 

We share some cases of people or communities with visual disabilities who have managed to improve their quality of life thanks to the use of braille.

 

1. Julius, South Sudan. Julius Onisente lost his sight when he was 19 years old after suffering a long illness and confesses that at that moment he felt frustrated and limited. “I knew I was capable of doing much more, but it seemed like the world around me doubted me,” he says.

 

Julius is currently 45 years old. After attending Level II Braille training, he confessed, “Running my hands through the dots and making sense of them is very empowering. It gives me an avenue for me to take part in this world that I know I belong to.”

 

2. Ashraf, Syria. Ashraf is a 15-year-old boy, forced to flee from Aleppo, in northern Syria, to Turkey with six other members of his family. He and his brother are visually impaired. Since his arrival, Ashraf has been attending school in the Midyat refugee camp and recently finished seventh grade. He performed very well.

 

“I used to attend a school for the blind in Aleppo where we learnt to read braille. There I didn’t feel different from everyone else,” he said. “I want to become a psychologist one day. I’m a good listener and I often help people find solutions to their problems.”

 

3. HIV prevention in Ghana. UNESCO, in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Ghana, and Ghana Education Service (GES), has produced and distributed HIV and AIDS Alert materials for visually impaired students in that country.

 

Ms Amina Achiaa, director of specialized education at GES, explained that students with visual disabilities were those most at risk of contracting HIV, and that they were the most likely to become victims of violence, stigmatization and discrimination. “Comprehensive sexuality education has played a significant role in helping young people develop critical life skills to take control of their lives,” said Ms Achiaa.

 

4. Reinier, Cuba. “I was born blind, so for me it is normal not to see,” says Reinier, who is 18 years old. “For those who lose their vision at my age, it is much more difficult, of course. I’ve developed as I was growing up, with the support of my family”. Claribel, his mother, has been his most faithful and extraordinary companion since he was born. She has taught him the most important lesson in his life: that his development and his dreams, just like any other child, have no limits.

 

For nine years Reinier attended the Abel Santa Maria special school, in which he was taught to use the cane, identify colours, play the guitar and piano, and ride a bike. He also learned history, arithmetic, and geography. He is currently studying journalism at the University of Havana. He is among the first to arrive in the classroom to sit in the front row. His classmates are still not used to the sound of his braille typewriter, which he soon hopes to replace with a laptop.

 

By: Juan Carlos Ugarelli

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